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The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

The Wives of Henry Oades

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February 2010 Debut of the Month.

Based on a true story this debut is riveting from the start. A historical novel but written in a very modern voice and as funny as it is sad. You find your loyalties torn between the characters, with sympathy for each of them and the situation fate has put them in. It’s one of the books you want to race through to see how it all turns out in the end. A great page turner quite unique in its style, pure entertainment.

If you like Johanna Moran you might also like to read books by David Edershoff and Ellen Horan.


The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

In 1899 Henry Oades discovers he has two wives -- and many dilemmas! In 1890, Henry Oades decided to undertake the arduous sea voyage from England to New Zealand in order to further his family's fortunes. Here they settled on the lush but wild coast -- although it wasn't long before disaster struck in the most unexpected of ways. A local Maori tribe, incensed at their treatment at the hands of the settlers, kidnapped Mrs Oades and her four children, and vanished into the rugged hills surrounding the town. Henry searched ceaselessly for his family, but two grief-stricken years later was forced to conclude that they must be dead. In despair he shipped out to San Francisco to start over, eventually falling in love with and marrying a young widow. In the meantime, Margaret Oades and her children were leading a miserable existence, enslaved to the local tribe. When they contracted smallpox they were cast out and, ill and footsore, made their way back to town, five years after they were presumed dead. Discovering that Henry was now half a world away, they were determined to rejoin him. So months later they arrived on his doorstep in America and Henry Oades discovered that he had two wives and many dilemmas ! This is a darkly comic but moving historical fiction debut about love and family, based on a controversial court case from the early 1900s.


'A beguiling, promising debut. Serious, sometimes horrific developments are lightened by touches of understated, salty wit in Moran's fact-based historical, a fresh and unusual story.'
Kirkus Reviews

'Intriguing and evocative!It's Margaret surviving the wilderness, Nancy overcoming grief and the two women bonding that give this book its heart and should make this a book group winner'
Publishers Weekly

'Equal parts love story and courtroom drama, Johanna Moran's The Wives of Henry Oades is a compelling story of good people caught in impossible circumstances, and a community that rushes to judge rather than to understand.'
Meg Waite Clayton, author of the bestseller The Wednesday Sisters

'A stellar debut novel. A delicious and painful tale of marriage, suffering, tolerance and sacrifice -- a historical saga seen through the lens of two wives, one husband, and the disapproving, cantankerous rabble at the end of Victorian America.'
Jamie Ford, bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

About the Author

Johanna Moran

Johanna Moran comes from a long line of writers and lawyers. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, John. She has travelled extensively, working as a Pan Am stewardess, and has visited all the places mentioned in this book. She first came across this story through her father, a professor of law. The Wives of Henry Oades is her first book.

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Book Info

Publication date

4th February 2010


Johanna Moran

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HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers




Historical Fiction
Debuts of the Month
Family Drama
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites



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